Six months into Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal, the gloomy mood in Wolfsburg, the German city where VW is headquartered, was personified by former CEO Martin Winterkorn's visit to his optician on March 14.
"Winterkorn was visibly dejected," optician Ehme de Riese told Reuters. "He is haunted by the question of what will happen to his life's work and to the Volkswagen company."
Winterkorn, who resigned in September, was on a fleeting visit -- de Riese said the longtime engineer has moved to Munich since the scandal ended his long career at the automaker.
De Riese runs three stores in Wolfsburg and supplies glasses to half of VW's executive board. As such, he fears that heavy penalties could force VW to scale back operations in the town, which lies about 120 miles west of Berlin.
To boost morale, he has spent 30,000 euros ($34,000) on pro-VW newspaper advertisements and badges that are plastered all over his central branch on the Porschestrasse, Wolfsburg's main shopping street, which is named after Ferdinand Porsche -- creator of the VW Beetle.
Ever the optimist, de Riese plans a fourth store in Wolfsburg in June, aimed at young customers.
"I'm adding a new brand, just like VW did in the good times," he said.
"It's important to bounce back, especially in such tough times."